MUMBAI: The head of the Congress party in Mumbai has demanded that artists who publicly back political leaders should be stripped of their Padma awards, a comment that appeared aimed at legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar for backing Narendra Modi, and, predictably, drew a sharp rebuke from the BJP.
Janardan Chandurkar, a senior Congress MLA and the president of the party\'s Mumbai unit told a rally on Tuesday that artists who were revered by millions must not use their popularity to support leaders, \"especially those who are accused of communal violence\".
\"Some artists have exhibited support to such leaders. They should first give up their Padma awards or else the government should strip them of their Padma awards. They should not be biased and if they want to really support certain politicians they should enter politics. If some of these artists make such public comments again, we will launch an agitation against them on the roads,\" he said.
While Chandurkar did not name Narendra Modi or Lata Mangeshkar, the reference to the two was clear. At function in Pune some days ago, Mangeshkar had extended her support to the Gujarat chief minister and expressed a wish that he becomes the country\'s prime minister, much to the discomfiture of the Congress.
The BJP took strong objection to Chandurkar\'s comments. \"This is nothing but narrow minded vindictive politics. This is directly suppression of freedom of expression. Doesn\'t every citizen of this country have the right to support any party that he or she wishes? The Congress should not treat Padma awards as their personal property and should not be so narrow in their approach,\" said BJP leader and former MLA Atul Shah said.
While Mangeshkar\'s statement created a stir among the political class, experts feel her statement and the fight over it is a non-issue. \"There seems to be some confusion among the politicians about cultural icons and political icons. The comments coming from a cultural reference point cannot make much impact on the voters. Unless the celebrity or the artist in question, is politically very active, the statements are no likely to make much difference to the people,\" said analyst Suhas Palshikar.
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